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The Way of Making Up During the Tang Dynasty

The Tang Dynasty was a period of the strongest colors in Chinese history. In particular, it was manifested on the faces of ladies in those days. No ladies of other dynasties made up with so glaring colors, lively touches and remarkable imagination. No people of other dynasties had such a broad space of creation to smarten themselves up.

Ladies of the Tang Dynasty made up mainly on their faces, especially on their cheeks, eyebrows and foreheads. Beautification of these major parts made the ladies elegant and graceful.


“Facial makeup of ladies during the Tang Dynasty was different from what it is like today. Yellow powder was applied to the forehead. It was called ‘yellow forehead,’” said Sun Ji, research fellow of Museum of Chinese History.


“Yellow forehead” and “green eyebrows” were the terms used to describe a lady’s makeup during the Tang Dynasty. Sometimes “green eyebrows” were called “emerald green eyebrows”.


Besides yellow foreheads and green eyebrows, a flower-patterned ornament was pasted between the two eyebrows. It was made of oil-tea camellia seeds or gold foil and many other materials.


The ornaments were varied. The simplest ornament was a round one. A complex one was like a pair of wings. A flower-patterned ornament was cut out and pasted between the eyebrows.


This was influenced by other cultures. The first flower-patterned ornament appeared during the Southern Dynasties. It was a small round dot. There was a dot on an image of Buddha. It was called “baihao” in Buddhism. The earliest flower-patterned ornament looked like the “baihao” in Buddhism. The ornament was probably influenced by the “baihao” in the early days. The influence was brought to China.


With the passage of time, the way of making up followed by ladies during the Tang Dynasty is no longer appealing today. But we admire the courage and self-confidence of ladies in those days.


“The criterion of beautiful eyebrows in the early period of the Tang Dynasty was quite different from that of today. Broad eyebrows were popular in the early period of the Tang Dynasty. At the corners of the mouth and on the lower part of cheeks were two dots. Usually pale in color, they were called painted dimples,” said Sun Ji, research fellow of Museum of Chinese History.


“After the makeup was done and a high and complicated bun was made, there appeared a richly attired and heavily made-up lady of the Tang Dynasty. Today the criterion of appreciation for a lady’s makeup is quite different,” said Sun Ji, research fellow of Museum of Chinese History.


Beauty is probably only a dream in one’s heart. People of today can hardly have the same feeling. What was important was that the self-confidence and noble-mindedness were part of the eternal charm of the Tang Dynasty.

(CCTV.com September 18, 2003)

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